Despite the (feels like) long ago announcements of more pho trucks coming to Washington (What the Pho? and PhoWheels,) a third truck quietly made it to market first. Pho Junkies kicked things off a little less than a week ago in an elaborate zombie-theme wrapped truck. Presumably the link between the two is because the rice noodles kind of look brain-like and zombies purportedly eat brains... but I'm just guessing on that one, based on the slogan "Better than BRAINS!"
You may remember Phonomenon, a short-lived truck last summer. I had the opportunity to eat there twice and was enormously disappointed with the pre-cooked, very tough meat, but recall finding depth in the broth. Pho Junkies offers essentially the opposite: for my Pho Tai (steak pho) they properly used thinly sliced raw eye round beef and poured broth over top, in function, cooking the meat. The broth is homemade, however it is pretty simple in flavor on its own. Typically, the accoutrements (herbs, light veggies, citrus, spice, etc) would pump things up, but in both my bowl and in my friend's, the quantities were pretty meager except for the basil.
When served, you will receive a covered bowl which will contain the noodles, protein(s), bean sprouts, onion, basil, cilantro, and broth, along with two cups on the side, one containing a couple thin slices of jalapeno plus a large wedge of lime and the other of hoisin with a small dollop of sriracha. My single biggest objection to the whole order was that second cup, particularly because the cup was only 1/2 full and because they didn't have supplementary bottles on the side. I can surmise why they do the cups, but people have their own tastes and part of the enjoyment of pho is being able to doctor your bowl as you please ... an attribute under tight restriction at Pho Junkies. I used every drop I could get from my sauce cup, and it didn't come close to seasoning my soup in the way I would have liked. The fresh steak and noodles adequately fulfilled their purpose though. Frankly, I'd like a whole lot more than the 5-6 leaves of cilantro I received, and would have preferred to tear my fresh basil rather than having whole pieces, but I can get over those things.
On the up-side, I also enjoyed an order of spring rolls with a mildly sweet dipping sauce. They were light, perfectly crispy, and well balanced in filling to wrapper. Next time I plan to definitely follow-up by trying the shrimp rolls.
The people seemed very nice and have a certain attention to detail, just maybe not all the right details. I will offer props for offering a relatively large variety of protein options, which is substantially more than their predecessor and, so far appears to be more than what What the Pho? has planned. 3.5 honks, but only because the high level of satisfaction from the spring rolls raised my feelings about this truck from what would have otherwise been a 3 honk rating. Even at 3 honks, minor improvements could easily elevate the score of the pho on its own to 3.5.
In cart news, I was a very early follower of District Taco when he first opened in Rosslyn back when I worked on Lynn Street in 2009. Even though he's had a brick and mortar location on Route 29 in Arlington for a while now, Osiris has gone prime-time by completing his downtown DC location, set to open later this week. He posted some photos telling of his excitement this morning. Congrats, Osiris!!!
And, looking forward to the next truck event after this past weekend's Curbside Cookoff...? Well you're in luck because you don't need to wait long! Truckeroo returns this Friday at The Fairgrounds. (Same location. New name.) See my Eat Street blog post for more details.